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Chris Klug Shares Transplant Journey with Children’s Hospital Patients

CC Cunningham is the Program Coordinator for the Chris Klug Foundation.

This past weekend, the Chris Klug Foundation made the trip up from Aspen to Denver, CO to participate in a whirlwind weekend of activities. First up was the 30th Annual Triple Bypass road bike race, in which Chris and Jon Gibans, one of the foundation’s board members, rode on the official CKF team. There were 13 members of the CKF team in total, including team captain and heart recipient, Steve Ast and a transplant nurses’ husband. The race spanned 120 total miles, through the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains from Evergreen to Avon, CO. The proceeds of the race were given to local nonprofit and volunteer organizations that helped put on the event. This year, overall contributions totaled a whopping $2.5 million that were generously donated to groups like CKF, Special Olympics and Vail Mountain Rescue.

On Saturday, CKF took part in the 19th Annual Donor Dash in Washington Park, hosted by Donor Alliance. The 5K walk/run honors the lives of organ and tissue donors, celebrates the lives of organ and tissue recipients and recognizes those who continue to wait for a lifesaving transplant. This year brought in a record-breaking 6,419 participants for the biggest Donor Dash to date. Chris and his wife, Missy, ran in the 5K along with their two children. CC Cunningham, CKF’s Program Coordinator, Jon Gibans, CKF Patient Ambassador Sara Millard, 2018 CKF NYC Marathon team member Thaddeus Haas, and others also ran in the Dash. After the race, stories told by transplant recipients and families of organ and tissue donors inspired the record crowd gathered in the park. Each person in attendance received a balloon, representative of the organ and tissue donors who gave the gift of a lifetime, which they released in unison into the sky to cap off the event. Check out this video of the day’s activities.

CKF visited the Children’s Hospital Colorado on Monday as part of our Patient Ambassador Tour, sponsored by Astellas. We had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with young transplant recipients and helped to lift the spirits of children on dialysis who are currently waiting for a transplant. The children ranged in age from 7 to 14. Every child we talked to, no matter their medical situation or health status, greeted us with gigantic smiles and positive spirits.

                

One 7-year-old we met, Willy, had been in the hospital for an extended period of time while he waits for a heart transplant. He is currently on an external heart, or Berlin Heart, and was surrounded by encouraging messages of “Free Willy!” written on his hospital room window. Talking to Chris, Willy was smiling and optimistic. His bravery and positivity were uplifting to witness—we ended up being the ones who were inspired and touched!

Our Patient Ambassador Tour continues on August 1st, where the CKF team will head to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City to conduct an Ambassador Panel consisting of doctors, transplant recipients and living donors. We can’t wait to hear these panel speakers’ inspiring stories!

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